UPDATE x5: Google goes nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings

UPDATE x5: Google goes nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings

Summary: I'm getting reports that Google search is going nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings and displaying this beneath all entries.I'm seeing it no matter what I search for, which is a real pain because you can't get to sites that you are looking for.

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I'm getting reports that Google search is going nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings and displaying this beneath all entries.

I'm seeing it no matter what I search for, which is a real pain because you can't get to sites that you are looking for. I guess this demonstrates the pitfalls of relying on one search engine provider ...

Anyone else seeing this? What are you doing while Google's effectively down?

UPDATE: This might have something to do with StopBadware.org being down as all search engine results are filters through this list before being displayed.

UPDATE x2: Things seem back to normal now.

UPDATE x3: Be careful out there ... it seems that Google has removed the filtering of bad sites. Sites that were on StopBadware.org block list are now not being flagged as potentially dangerous.

UPDATE x4: We now have official word from Google as to the cause of the problem ... drum roll please ... human error!

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to get our list of URLs. StopBadware carefully researches each consumer complaint to decide fairly whether that URL belongs on the list. Since each case needs to be individually researched, this list is maintained by humans, not algorithms.

We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to release on the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

The resulting flood of traffic to StopBadware.org took the site down.

This morning, an apparent glitch at Google caused nearly every [update 11:44 am] search listing to carry the "Warning! This site may harm your computer" message. Users who attempted to click through the results saw the "interstitial" warning page that mentions the possibility of badware and refers people to StopBadware.org for more information. This led to a denial of service of our website, as millions of Google users attempted to visit our site for more information. We are working now to bring the site back up. We are also awaiting word from Google about what happened to cause the false warnings.

Seems like everything is working fine at Google's end now.

UPDATE x5: Updated response from Google:

We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list. 

Topics: Browser, CXO, Cloud, Google, Hardware

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36 comments
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  • In Brazil too

    The same problem with Google is taking place in Brazil.
    sergio.oliveira@...
  • RE: Google goes nuts with the

    Death to Google. Talk about a Hijack.
    nojava
  • RE: Google goes nuts with the

    I've tested it too. No matter where you are located (I've tested
    it threw different location proxies) the bug seems worldwide!
    machavictor
  • Maybe Fixed? Searchs ok Now.

    Maybe Fixed? Searchs ok Now.
    nojava
    • Yeah ...

      ... seems fixed now
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • The shame is it made me stop working...


    The shame is it made me stop working... it seems my only search provider is Google. In Firefox I can change the integrated search provider with just one click, but I lost around one hour just because in my mind only Google existed. Shame on me.

    On the bright side, I was happy to know it was not a problem with my computer (I was thinking about a XSS script that could be messing with my browser, or something like that.)

    Regards,

    MV

    MV_z
    • I bet ...

      ... you weren't the only one!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Yahoo! Search wasn't affected

        I know Yahoo! gets it's search results from Google, but it wasn't affected by this error. I was made aware of this issue by a friend and verified that I was getting the error page, but since I mostly use Yahoo!, without the heads-up, I wouldn't have known of the error at Google.

        I confirmed that at the time that Google was affected, Yahoo! was not.
        khawaja.umar.farooq@...
  • RE: Google goes nuts with the

    ->>UPDATE x3: Be careful out there ? it seems that Google has removed the filtering of bad sites. Sites that were on StopBadware.org block list are now not being flagged as potentially dangerous.

    That's why msn.com, yahoo.com were marked as Malware? This outage was more than likely a bug in googles Malware detection. Google is acting in my behalf just like Microsoft. UAC? Just more phishing attacks. Pretty soon we will not be able to trust anything coming from Google. How do I now if they are modify the Web page we are looking out. Their are ready doing it for Advertizing.



    nojava
    • SHOW ME THE MONEY!

      Yes, sooner or later, Google would fold to the all mighty advertising dollar. Yahoo did, and they're no different. Soon you will be bombarded with ads, same as Yahoo. The page will sooner or later try to reflect your style and you'll have Yahoo again. Remember, Yahoo started out just as lean and fast as Google is now. But the difference today is most of these search sites are portals. You enter their site and they show you want they want you to see. In Yahoo, the more you pay, the more your site is at the top of the search results page. So you would have to scroll down past the "sponsors" sites to get to the meat of what you are looking for. And keep in mind that the first 5 pages may be legitimate sites and after that you start hitting other search engines and their results.
      mypl8s4u2
  • StopBadware.org statement

    "This morning, an apparent glitch at Google caused nearly every search listing to carry the "Warning! This site may harm your computer" message. Users who attempted to click through the results saw the "interstitial" warning page that mentions the possibility of badware and refers people to StopBadware.org for more information. This led to a denial of service of our website, as millions of Google users attempted to visit our site for more information. We are working now to bring the site back up. We are also awaiting word from Google about what happened to cause the false warnings."

    http://blog.stopbadware.org/2009/01/31/google-glitch-causes-confusion
    stopbadware
  • I'd hate to be the one....

    ...that checked that wrong box.
    storm14k
  • Well, that's one way to keep Yahoo alive

    nice of Google to throw a bone and some users. :)
    Boot_Agnostic
  • RE: Google goes nuts with the

    And what OS does Google run? That's right, linux! This screw up is a perfect example of why you shouldn't run linux on your network. But I don't completely blame the OS, the employees are to blame as well. Google has a policy of letting their employees just sit around playing with office toys all day instead of doing real work. This incident could have been easily avoided but the incompetence of Google employees decided marking all sites harmful would be best. Nothing but bad news and a black eye for you Google. HAHAHAHA!
    Loverock Davidson
    • Huh? The OS doesn't matter

      The OS had ZERO to do with it. The problem was completely a human error of marking / as a bad site, which is like saying that anything with / in it is a bad site.

      Human error, not OS error. The OS doesn't filter things like this. The OS runs programs that humans want run and code.

      I hope you have a better day on Sunday.
      k12IT
    • I guess that

      reading comprehension is not your strong suit.

      Surprisingly enough, human error can cause problems on windows-based systems, too.
      donniebnyc666
    • Talking out of your butt

      How sad that your two cents reflects your education. Any fool reading this would know the problem was human error where a "/" was added to the filtering causing massive denial of any site as that's part of the URL. Are you reading or sitting on your head? It had nothing to do with Linux or any OS-HUMAN ERROR. And I think Linux is a more stable OS in the first place than any Windows platform. If you were to do any comparison, you'd find the majority of Corporations in the world utilize some form of Linux as their major system for stability and not Windows. Linux servers are lean machines requiring very little HD space to run and more efficient as when you load Linux, you load what you need and not bloat. On a server such as Windows, what would I need a calc for? What would I need Solitaire for? Why would I need all types of backgrounds, screen savers, countless useless fonts that do nothing but hog resources? Why would I need a library of drivers? And lastly, what fool would put an OS on a server where the ports are by default, OPEN? There are 65000 ports and by default, Windows allows them to all be open. That is why firewalls are so important to a network. Linux uses firewalls too, but as a default, their ports are not open. And lastly, it was not the employees who marked all the sites, the computer did due to HUMAN ERROR. The computer was given a command to mark any site with a "/" as unsafe. So before you go bashing anything, read the story. Maybe your topic was for some other thread and you accidentally posted your rantings here. Keep in mind, there are no perfect OS's out there. And the fact that I have a choice is testament to this great nation of ours to have that choice. Any no one should bash another. Prejudice takes many forms. I hope you don't kill because someone else may like something you don't.
      mypl8s4u2
  • Message has been deleted.

    jaiderbertoli007
  • Has the human been deleted?

    Oh well, scratch the line that says "Google Tech" on their resume.
    AtlantaTerry
  • RE: Google goes nuts with the

    Rasie the alarms!
    All hands on deck!
    Duck and cover!

    This is just geeky neurosis - go talk to a real human for a while.
    shamca